CHICAGO — Two of the world's largest automakers used the Chicago Auto Show last week to offer a defense of auto shows in general.
High-ranking executives from Volkswagen Group and Toyota Motor Corp. upheld the value of global auto shows as proven ways to market vehicles. They said larger shows — especially those with venues big enough to house experiential marketing displays such as ride-and-drives — will play an important role in their marketing efforts for the foreseeable future.
"For us, it's probably one of the most efficient ways to get in front of as many consumers as we possibly can," said Derrick Hatami, executive vice president for sales and marketing with Volkswagen Group of America. "For us, to be able to get access to 11 million people last year with our products, and have them sit in it, touch and feel, and in some instances actually drive them, it's a huge benefit for us. We always do well when people actually drive the product."
Hatami held a roundtable with journalists last week during the media preview for the Chicago Auto Show specifically to defend auto shows as valuable marketing tools. He said that, for a "2 percent market-share brand" such as VW, auto shows provide broad access to already interested shoppers and helps push them to consider the brand.
"We have some great brand awareness, but I think we struggle at the model level. I think a lot of people associate Volkswagen with the Beetle and the Microbus, and when you ask them about what cars we sell right now, they have a hard time naming them," with the possible exception of the Jetta, Hatami said.